NBA 2K8 is the best basketball sim I’ve ever played. With the countless personalized styles of different players, you’ll really feel like you’re playing with NBA stars. From unique dunks and shooting styles to the well-animated movements on the court, this is a great re-creation of the pro game. Now if it only looked as good as it plays, it might be the best basketball game of all time, but as is it’s still the best on the market today.

I really like the on-court action. The players, thanks in part to the foot-planting technology, have a real sensation of weight and motion to them that lends itself to solid play. I did find that it doesn’t extend as much to the defensive end, but not having to plant as much before each move makes keeping up the with ball handler easier, so I didn’t mind too much. Speaking of defense, allot of people dislike the lock-on defensive mechanic, but I didn’t find it to make enough of a difference to really matter either way. I use it periodically, but it’s no savior for playing bad D.  The shooting styles are all unique and authentic, but bring up my first complaint. It’s very hard to tell when you’re at the proper release point for shooting when each player’s is different. You can’t get into a rhythm and when you miss it’s hard to tell whether it’s because you were too early, too late, or just missed because of a bad shot or good defense. It’s really irritating when you have to keep adjusting and you’re not sure if you’re making the right changes. A similar problem is linked to all of the different free throw styles, but that at least tells you if you were early or late. In short, go into practice mode, people, and learn the players’ styles. It’ll save you a huge headache.

The Association mode is very, very good. Managing playtime is easy (relatively), and the options are strong. As a side note, you can take your created team into a season, but in all honesty, I couldn’t stand the cheap uniforms my players wore long enough to run through even one season. The create-a-team options are incredibly slim, and you can’t take any of the Legends players for your roster, either. If you can’t make a dream team, why create one? Speaking of teams, you need to play like the team you choose to have any chance at success. This means running as Phoenix, playing team ball as Detroit, and grinding out wins behind LeBron as Cleveland.

The stadiums look good, the courts are spectacular, and the animations are spot-on. So why did I complain about the looks at the start of this review? The player faces are ugly as hell. Some of the stars look like themselves, but most everyone else – especially the Caucasian lot – look like zombies of some sort. The create-a-player mode is afflicted by this and has the worst face creation system I’ve ever seen. I mean it, Oblivion – notorious for being finicky – is like The Sims 2 compared to this. This isn’t about too many options either, it’s about poorly explained, poorly executed options. I’ve never seen a create-a-player mode I hated, but this may be the first. When you consider that 2K Sports was touting it’s hard work on the faces, all of this  – the ugly players and crappy face design tool – seems even more insulting.

The play-by-play is good for the most part, but I have two problems with it. For one, it repeats too much, and I’ve only heard two sets of lines repeated at the Player of the Game screen. Secondly, there are times when Kevin Harlan’s voice was poorly looped and sounded way out of place.

The Game Wrap-up is by far my favorite feature. I love seeing the top 3 plays again, and getting to sort plays to watch by player is great. Even the Player of the Game screen shows plays by that star player from the game. I also like the sports ticker constantly running through the game, but then I watch ESPN News on TV most of the time anyway, so I’m the wrong guy to ask about being force-fed too much sports information.

In all, aside from the ugly players and the guess work needed for shooting, this is an excellent game. Add to all of this the Blacktop mode with it’s included Slam Dunk Contest, as well as the 2K Reel Maker, and you’ve got one great b-ball package. Alphasim out.